Two killed as avalanches hit Tibet’s Shishapangma as climbers near summit

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - BEIJING, Oct 8 — Avalanches have struck high on the slopes of the Tibetan mountain Shishapangma as more than 50 climbers were making a push for the summit, killing an American and Nepalese mountaineer, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Shishapangma, at just over 8,000 metres, is the world’s 14th tallest peak. It is widely regarded as one of the easier mountains of that height, known among climbers as the “eight-thousanders”.

Two avalanches hit its slopes at elevations of 7,600 metres and 8,000 metres on Saturday, killing American climber Anna Gutu and Nepalese guide Mingmar Sherpa, Xinhua reported.

Another American climber, Gina Marie Rzucidlo, and her Nepalese guide, Tenjen Sherpa, were missing.

Tenjen Sherpa was the guide for Norway’s Kristin Harila when they climbed K2 in Pakistan in July to become the world’s fastest climbers to scale all of the 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.

Another Nepalese guide Karma, Geljen Sherpa, was seriously hurt on Saturday but was escorted down the mountain by rescuers.

A total of 52 climbers were pushing for the summit when the avalanches hit, including from the United States, Britain, Romania, Albania, Italy, Japan and Pakistan, Xinhua said.

All climbing activity on Shishapangma was suspended due to the unstable snow conditions.

October is a popular month for climbers in the Himalayas due to its traditionally more stable conditions as monsoon rain eases.

But scientists warn that global warming is raising avalanche risks in high-altitude regions including the Himalayas.

Last week, a Chinese expedition set up a series of weather stations on the 8,201-metre Cho Oyu on Tibet’s border with Nepal to measure the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

Two Pakistani climbers, narrowly escaped the avalanches on Saturday after calling off their summit bid due to poor weather despite coming within a few hundred metres of the peak, Pakistani media reported.

Had one of the Pakistani climbers, Sirbaz Khan, reached the top of Shishapangma he would have become the first Pakistani to summit all 14 mountains over 8,000 meters. — Reuters

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